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20 Classic RPGs That Are Still Great Today

Updated October 13, 2020 6.8k votes 1.0k voters 24.9k views20 items

List RulesClassic role-playing games only (i.e., only games from 5th generation consoles and earlier).

With all the photorealistic graphics, gigantic game worlds, and flashy skill trees, it's easy to get swept up in the epic adventures of modern role-playing games. However, there's a lot to be gained by diving into the older titles that have made the genre what it is today. From critical failures that found new life with cult followings to classics that continue to game design all these years later, these old RPG games may be dated, but there's something special out there for every RPG fan who's willing to look past sometimes outdated UI and somewhat limited graphics.

So which games do we consider "retro" and "vintage"? Sure, it's up for debate, but for the purpose of this list, we're sticking with games that were released on or before 2002. Basically, anything 5th generation and earlier.

If you're looking to begin your journey with the best retro RPGs of yesteryear, check out our list below. From epic titles like Chrono Trigger and Secret of Mana to good old-school role-playing games like EverQuest, vote up all the classic RPGs that still hold up.

  • Chrono Trigger
    Video: YouTube

    One of the most highly regarded RPGs of all time, Chrono Trigger was created by Square Enix's "dream team": the creator of the Final Fantasy series, the creator of the Dragon Quest series, and a manga artist known for his work on Dragon Quest and Dragon Ball.

    Chrono Trigger pioneers elements that are widespread in so many games today — multiple endings and character-focused side quests. The game's legacy is undeniable, as it has continued to influence games that are being released more than 25 years later.

    • Release: 1995
    • Developer: Square, Tose Co., Ltd.
    • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, PlayStation, iPhone
    Still holds up?

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  • Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars
    Video: YouTube

    Super Mario RPG is not the most remembered adventure of the overall-clad plumber, but it surely was an exciting experiment for the franchise. A departure from the platformers that Mario has come to be so well-known for, Super Mario RPG focuses on the characters of the Mushroom Kingdom, and their quest to defeat the evil Smithy, who stole the seven pieces that make up Star Road.

    he game was universally praised for its humor and graphics, and it went on to inspire more RPG-esque entries to the Mario franchise, like Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi.

    • Release: 1996
    • Developer: Nintendo, Square
    • Platform: Super Nintendo Entertainment System, Wii
    Still holds up?

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  • Final Fantasy Tactics
    Video: YouTube

    There are tons of classic Final Fantasy games, but while VI, VII, and IX are arguably the most popular, Tactics is the quiet knockout that boldly took the series where it's never gone before. Sort of the black sheep in the Final Fantasy family, Tactics utilizes a unique battle system that takes place on a rotatable 3D field. Combat and strategy take precedence over the main story, as players are able to recruit soldiers, upgrade their classes, and basically control the battlefield much in the way a medieval general would.

    Most gamers tend to either love it or hate it, but regardless of how much of a departure it was at the time, the gameplay, style, and even tiny pixilated battlefields still look great today.

    • Release: 1997
    • Developer: Square
    • Platform: PlayStation
    Still holds up?

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  • Xenogears
    Video: YouTube

    As mecha animes like Neon Genesis Evangelion dominated the late 90s, it was only a matter of time before the trend trickled into video games as well.  In Xenogears, the gameplay revolves around exploration and combat, both on foot and using mechas known as Gears.

    The game was originally pitched as an idea for Final Fantasy VII, and its story incorporates themes of Jungian and Freudian psychology and religious symbolism. You can really see the inspiration from the anime, considering the latter was prominently featured in Evangelion.

    • Release: 1998
    • Developer: Square
    • Platform: PlayStation Portable, PlayStation 3, PlayStation
    Still holds up?

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